Cappadocia has been on my bucket list for a while. I had built it up to be the most amazing place ever and it really didn’t disappoint. I’ll be telling you all the best free things to do in Cappadocia, as well as how you can splurge on a hot air balloon ride (including what no one tells you before!) It is now one of my favourite places I have been to in the world due to its unique landscape and the most incredible views, from the rock formations to the hundreds of balloons that fly up over them every morning.
How to get here to Cappadocia?
I flew from London to Istanbul and from there I got a domestic flight to Kayseri Airport, which takes about an hour and a half. In Kayseri we hopped onto a shuttle bus, which I would advise to arrange before you arrive to avoid being stuck. The shuttle takes about 30minutes to an hour depending on where you stay. You can get a coach from Istanbul but it’s a long ride whereas the flights were about £30 so definitely worth it.
Where to Stay in Cappadocia?
I would definitely recommend staying in Göreme. There are other areas such as Uçhisar and Ürgüp, but from Göreme you get the best view of the balloons in the morning. If you want to stay in one of the more popular hotels such as Sultan Cave Suites, make sure you book well in advance. I stayed in a guesthouse called Fairy Chimney Inn, in an actual fairy chimney! It is one of the highest up places to stay so has an incredible view. There are many cave hotels to choose from, the 10 best cave hotels are linked for you to choose from!
Free things to do in Cappadocia
There are so many free things to do in Cappadocia! Mostly walking and hiking, which I enjoyed the most! Then visiting lots of the iconic fairy chimneys. Then of course watching the hot air balloons at sunrise is one of the very best free things to do here. Read on to see what to add to your itinerary!
Go hiking and walking in the Valleys
There are some great hikes you can do around Göreme. I would recommend Pidgeon Valley, which starts in Göreme and ends in Uçhisar. One tip: as you come on to the trail for this walk, there is a sign for Pidgeon Valley to the right, this is a scam to get you to go to a juice shop! So make sure you go left when you reach this sign, which says Pidgeon Valley in Turkish, Güvercin Vadisi. The fresh orange and pomegranate juices are really good so make sure you do try one. At the end of the hike you can climb up to the castle on top of a volcanic rock in Uçhisar if you still have energy and for amazing views.
After the hike I would say get a Dolmus back from Uçhisar to Göreme. Dolmus are the local buses, super cheap and it takes about ten minutes back to Göreme.
Red and Rose Valley
This was my favourite hike, there are three to choose from depending on how much time you have. I chose the shortest one due to time constraints. The starting point is Aktepe Sunset Point. It is steep at times so make sure you have good shoes. I got a taxi to the starting point as it was very cheap and saves a long walk from Göreme to the Aktepe Sunset point.
Another valley not to miss is Devrent Valley, where the rocks are shaped like animals, although you may have to use your imagination!
Finally, Pasabag, also called the Monks Valley contains some of the most amazing fairy chimneys, which are the tall volcanic rocks. You can step inside and see how people used to live. This is also free to visit!
Things to do in Cappadocia – NOT FREE!
Göreme Open Air Musem
Göreme Open Air Museum – which is a lot of cave churches with ancient frescoes that have been preserved. Avoid midday as it’s all in the sun. Also it gets very crowded, so ideally go when it first opens.
Head to Galerie Ikman
This is technically free until you buy something! Give yourself some time to wander around Göreme to see lots of lovely fairy chimneys! Also go and see Galerie Ikman, it has the most amazing carpets and it’s also fun seeing tourists being carried around having their photos taken, which they now charge for. There are plenty of amazing things to buy in Turkey!
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride!
You will be up early every day here to see these! The balloons go everyday unless it’s too windy, but if you have booked to go you will find out the evening before. Make sure you will get your money back if it is cancelled. You will be picked up from where you are staying at about 5:00-5:30. The balloons then take off between 06:00 and 07:00.
It really was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. If you can save up some money for this, as it’s not cheap (£150-£175), then definitely do it. Otherwise, it is still beautiful watching the balloons fly over Göreme every morning.
What time of year to go?
I was there in October and it was very cold in the morning, so make sure to wrap up! Once in the balloon it was better but still get all the layers you can. I was told that May-September is the best time to go to Cappadocia, especially for hot air balloon season as this is when the weather is best.
Lastly book well in advance, two weeks if you can, as I struggled to organise a balloon trip once I had arrived!
How long to spend in Cappadocia?
I stayed three nights, and had almost four full days. This is ideal if you want to do lots of hikes, and gives you an extra day in case you have booked a balloon flight and it gets cancelled. On our first day the balloons were not flying due to wind.
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